Protect your roof from the damaging effects of winter

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Snow can wreak serious havoc in the winter months, as it can lead to power outages, cause delayed commutes and require laborious shoveling. It can also cause severe damage to your roof if you’re not careful. John Bernaudo, exterior designer at Alure Home Improvements, shared some tips for protecting your roof and knowing the warning signs of any potentially harmful damage.

Dangers of snow and ice
When heavy snow falls on top of your roof, it can cause a number of issues, even if you have a traditional asphalt roof that was properly installed, explained Bernaudo. Additions like valleys, dormers and skylights can make your roof more susceptible to the damaging effects of snow. It can lead to a collapse or leaking, as well as freeze-ups and ice damming, which can all be extremely damaging to your home. Additionally, it’s important to take note of any nearby trees or branches that could fall on your home with all of the snow weighing them down. However, major disasters like these aren’t the only threats to your roof in the winter.

“Excessive ice and snow can and will speed up the aging process of your roof,” said Bernaudo. “How this happens is heat collects in the attic and warms the roof, except in the eaves and areas where there is little or no attic. Snow melts on the warm roof and then freezes on the colder eaves. Ice then accumulates along [them], forming a dam. The water melted from the warm roof ultimately backs up behind it and flows under the shingles, and into the house.”

Signs of damage
How can you tell if there’s damage before a major disaster occurs? There are some obvious and other more subtle indications that your roof is in need of a professional’s guidance. For starters, any leaks, dark spots or cracking noises are serious concerns to raise with a roofing contractor. You may also notice things like icicles developing from the gutters, a sagging roof and pressure cracks in the interior walls. Plus, your doors and windows may become increasingly more difficult to open. Since many of these signs can be easily confused with the typical aging process of your home, it’s important to seek help if you’re unsure.

“The best way to confirm that your roof is damaged is to ask a licensed professional roofer,” advised Bernaudo.

Preparing your home for snow
In the meantime, there are many ways to prepare your home for the harsh conditions of the season. Bernaudo suggested addressing air leaks and inadequate insulation in your attic or crawl spaces and checking on loose or missing shingles before the snow starts to fall. Look for cracks in flashing or tar, pay special attention when examining the chimney, vents and skylights, and, as always, clean your gutters regularly.

Removing snow from your roof can be as simple as using a rake to wipe away hard-to-reach areas. However, just because it’s a simple approach doesn’t mean that it’s free of harm. It can cause damage to a roof – not to mention a person’s back and shoulders – without proper tools and care.

“Even though they are effective, some say that raking or shoveling the snow or ice off the roof can be very dangerous,” warned Bernaudo. “If you do rake the roof, use a rake with wheels because the rake will damage the roof shingles.”

It’s best to remove snow as soon as possible, since it can ice up and become increasingly difficult to remove as time goes on. Try clearing your roof after every 6 inches or so of snowfall to ensure easy and safe execution. Other options, like heated roof cables, can help prevent snow from piling up, but are expensive and can be problematic. While homeowners might be able to set this up on their own, it’s always strongly recommended to call on the help of a professional roofing company when working on your roof.

“The best way to ensure that your roof lasts and does its job most efficiently is to have it installed correctly and make sure your attic is properly ventilated and insulated,” Bernaudo explained.

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